Obama’s “You Didn’t Build That” Gaffe
A key passage:
In 2003 a young man named Anthony Casalena was at the University of Maryland with a desire to build a website for himself that could be easily updated—a “content management system” (CMS), the tech-phrase is. He grew weary of the paltry offerings out on the Internet and decided to develop his own website-creation software, from complete and total scratch. The result was a web-publishing platform he called ‘Squarespace,’ whose existence he quickly shared with people he knew. He got the sense that his idea “had legs,” and so he sought some financial help to make it possible for him to develop his idea full-time. He went to his father for a $30,000.00 loan, and was able to use the funds to purchase hardware and infrastructure from private companies. He ran the product on his own—he was “tech support.”
In November of 2004 I was looking around for some help in my personal project of creating a website devoted to the academic study of St. Thomas Aquinas. I had learned computer programming, and had myself started developing a platform for my website (thomistica.net), but found the going hard, time-consuming, and possibly costly; besides, I need to teach and research on Thomistic theology. So I searched the Internet and saw some glowing reports in various forums about a brand-new product called “Squarespace,” where one could get a free trial website, and instant customer support: the answer to my prayers. I loaded up some test content on the site, grew to love its easy interface for web-publishing, and was almost tearful in my gratitude for how quickly this young man, Anthony Casalena, would respond to my support queries. I decided that I was “all in” on this new platform, and purchased a subscription to it. Since then, for both for my academic baby (thomistica.net) and my personal site (markfjohnson.net), Squarespace has been my home. Anthony has built this thing from the absolute ground up. Over time he added two employees, moved from Maryland to Manhattan, NYC, and managed the company with such frugality that it has been profitable since the beginning (thanks to the investment of his intellectual power, his sweat, and his father’s money—whom he has paid back, I’ve heard tell, manifoldly). In order to share his vision and guarantee the quality of his product he recently raised some venture capital funding, and used the money to hire more employees. Squarespace is now ninety employees large.
So please forgive me if I suffer consternation at the President’s ambiguous “somebody else built that,” for I can think of at least one person who deserves the lion’s share of credit for in fact “having built it.” Tony Casalena. And he now has ninety-plus employees (i.e., tax-payers, and wealth-coproducers) who daily “build it,” too. It may “take a village,” but the village is populated with individual people of all colors, shapes, and sizes, who work hard each day to make their way.
So, sorry. Tony Casalena did build that, or it.